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2021 Kia Stonic detailed: Why Australia will get the new Mazda CX-3 rival and how Kia thinks it will add to its line-up

Could Kia's new Stonic light SUV help the brand pip Ford and Mitsubishi in the sales race next year?

The Kia Stonic will be the latest all-new nameplate to join an expansive list of new light SUVs in Australia in the last two years, but with worldwide market forces, its arrival was far from originally guaranteed, according to Kia’s local product planning boss, Roland Rivero.

“There was a point where KMC (Kia Motors Corporation) said we could choose Stonic or Seltos,” he explained. “We couldn’t have both. We chose Seltos, it was the right product for our market.”

“But now with coronavirus affecting demand out of Europe, KMC were looking for other markets. The success of Seltos here helped with that [the confirmation of Stonic for Oz].”

Mr Rivero’s previous statements on the Stonic in January of this year confirmed the brand was directly gunning for SUVs like the Mazda CX-3, Suzuki Vitara and Volkswagen T-Cross with its new Stonic. “Dimensionally, it is similar to a CX-3,” he said at the time. “There’s a clear step as you go from Stonic to Seltos, Sportage which will grow in the next generation – and then to Sorento, which will complete our SUV line-up.”

For the record, the Kia Telluride which caps off the brand’s range in the US is still not headed for Australia, as it is only built in left-hand drive at the brand’s Georgia facility.

Kia Australia’s COO, Damien Meredith added to Mr Rivero’s comments, confirming the brand doesn’t think it will cannibalise sales of its other models by adding yet another SUV. “We’re confident Stonic will hit the mark. It won’t affect Cerato at the top-end or the Rio at the bottom end. It will help us build volume,” he said.

The brand is confident the Stonic will add incremental sales and not kill off the Rio. The brand is confident the Stonic will add incremental sales and not kill off the Rio.

Mr Meredith wouldn’t be drawn further on whether the addition of the Stonic (which could potentially add thousands of units a year to the brand’s total tally) would help it pip the likes of Ford and Mitsubishi in the annual sales race, simply saying: “If it happens, it will happen organically.” Such a shift would put Kia only behind Toyota (#1), Mazda (#2), and Hyundai (#3) in Australia - even without the known-to-be-in-the-works pick-up truck.

The brand said in January that its pricing strategy was paying off with Seltos, however, with the well-received small SUV adding significant incremental sales. “We thought there would be a 10 per cent effect on Cerato and 30 per cent on Sportage,” Mr Meredith said at the time. “The great news is there has been no effect on Cerato and about 10 per cent on Sportage, and we’re really pleased with how that’s turned out.”

Brand representatives couldn’t confirm much else about the Stonic for the time being, only suggesting that the price it is looking at for the light SUV will land it in the gap comfortably between the Rio hatch and Seltos small SUV. As the Stonic has been available since 2017 internationally, it is the facelifted model that will arrive in Australia in early 2021, likely bearing the brand’s new logo.

The Stonic received the Rio's interior updates in Europe recently, but the car that arrives here could be further updated again. The Stonic received the Rio's interior updates in Europe recently, but the car that arrives here could be further updated again.

As it stands, the Stonic shares its underpinnings and interior fittings with the Rio hatch, and it will also share its available engines: a 1.4-litre four-cylinder non-turbo petrol with a traditional automatic, or a 1.0-litre turbo petrol with a dual-clutch.

The brand is set to reveal more specifically on the Stonic in the coming months, so stay tuned for more closer to its launch window.